Friday 18 January 2019

Take that Saudi - we're more liberal than you

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Now here's something to gladden the heart of every proud Irish man and woman - we're the most liberal country in the world!

Well, maybe not. I'm actually referring to Thursday's news that, out of the 71 countries which have blasphemy laws, ours are the least restrictive. Hurray for us!

Take that Iran! How do ye like them apples, Pakistan?

Feeling jealous, Saudi Arabia?

Yes, it should be a source of immense national pride that when it comes to blasphemy, we are slightly more enlightened than other countries which will kill you for it. We just threaten to fine blasphemers and, as the Great Stephen Fry Debacle reminded us, we don't even do that.

What if you had a law that nobody wanted, couldn't actually be enforced and, by its own definition, can't allow testimony from the alleged victim, in this case God? It's easy to laugh at our weird, very Irish approach to the blasphemy situation. For starters, as was proved by the fact that the gardaí couldn't find enough people to complain about Stephen Fry (above) to make a prosecution stick, it is quite simply something that most of us aren't bothered about.

But it also exposes something much darker in the vengeful Irish psyche - many people don't want it, most people see it as a fairly feeble and morally reprehensible piece of legislation for any civilised country to have on their books, but others quite like the idea. Because it keeps their opponents in line.

I've been threatened by numerous religious types that they would try to do me under the blasphemy legislation but, sadly, their threats have remained empty.

That's a shame, because the best way to expose an idiotic law is to get the idiots to come forward and try to make their case in court. They never seem to follow through with it, because the 2009 Blasphemy legislation was only ever going to be used as a tool to silence people before they commit the 'crime', not to punish them afterwards.

And it has had an effect. After Charlie Hebdo, for instance, and under threat from numerous Islamic agitators in this country, the legal advice given to all media companies was that reprinting the cartoons could be in breach of the law.

That, in turn, gave nervous media types the excuse not to reprint the cartoons, which led to the bizarre situation of journalists trying to report on something they couldn't actually show.

Of course, there is also the fact that there is no need for blasphemy in a society where hate crime legislation already covers all of the areas that blasphemy is meant to curb.

But enough of this needless carping. We're now officially more liberal than Saudi. Yay for us.

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